Recently, I spoke with Alex Webster, the bassist of the legendary death metal band Cannibal Corpse. The band will release their fifteenth album, Violence Unimagined, on April 16, 2021, through their longtime label Metal Blade Records. Alex and I discussed a few different topics touching on the new album, the addition of Erik Rutan to the group, and how they confronted recording a new album in the middle of a global pandemic.
Let’s rip the band-aid off. What is the meaning of Violence Unimagined -the title of your whopping fifteenth studio album? Who came up with the title?
Paul came up with the album title. I like to think of it as something that sort of sums up our band’s lyrical and musical approach. Also, it might pique the curiosity of the listener. For a band with fourteen previous albums that all feature graphically violent lyrics, what could be left that would be “unimaginable?” You’ll have to check out the album to see!
Was it a challenge recording a studio album in the brunt of a global pandemic?
For the other four guys in the band it was probably not all that different but since I live on the other side of the country these days I did have to do things differently this time. Since cross-country travel wasn’t advisable at the time of the recording session [from] April through June 2020, we decided I should record my bass tracks at my home studio rather than in Mana Studios with the rest of the band. Fortunately, I have some experience in this area, and also good technology like “re-amping” exists, so we were able to get a bass tone that was just as good as if I’d been down in Florida with the rest of the guys.
The lead single, “Inhumane Harvest,” was released on February 2nd. Should all listeners be prepared for the same intensity and technicality on the remaining ten tracks come April 16th?
Yes, we’re quite pleased with how the album came out and hopefully each song is a potential fan favorite. That said, they each have their own distinct character. It’s a collection of eleven diverse Cannibal Corpse-style death metal songs.
Do you have a favourite lyric that you or your fellow bandmates wrote for the new album that has stuck with you?
There are quite a few cool lyrics [and] vocal patterns on this album. My favourite is probably the chorus of “Condemnation Contagion,” which Erik wrote.
Can fans expect any signature Alex Webster bass solos on Violence Unimagined?
There are a couple of solo-like fills in the song “Follow the Blood” and also a very quick -and simple- bass feature in “Overtorture.” Beyond that the bass tone turned out really well and I think you’ll be able to hear my bass lines throughout the album.
Is there a song in the entire Cannibal Corpse catalogue that you feel may have been broadly overlooked by your fan base as being one of your best?
Hard to say for sure. Maybe “From Skin To Liquid” from Gallery of Suicide. It’s an instrumental, and extremely slow for us, but I think it’s as heavy as anything we’ve ever done.
How was it getting into the studio with your newest member Erik Rutan -who is also a long-time producer of the band- contributing to the songwriting and performing on the new album?
It was great to have Erik join the band as our second guitarist and contribute as a songwriter as well. He has so much experience in death metal [performing in bands] Ripping Corpse, Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal, so his skill set was never in question. Obviously he was already a renowned musician and songwriter in our genre. We also have been friends with him for many years and as you mentioned we worked with him on several other albums. So his joining of the band seemed incredibly natural. The transition was seamless, professionally and personally.
Did Erik write any of the tracks on the new album and bring them to the rest of the band during the writing/recording process for you guys to use?
Erik wrote three songs for us. We loved them and really there was never a question that we’d use them. We were confident that whatever Erik came up with would be killer and also fit well with our style. Erik knows our music well from working with us and touring with us in 2019 so he knew just how to integrate his own writing style into the Cannibal Corpse style.
Again, you’ve also had Erik produce the previous four albums, now five with Violence Unimagined. What is it about Erik that makes him your go-to music producer?
He has an incredible work ethic and he knows death metal inside and out. He has a wealth of experience as both a guitarist and a producer in our genre.
Finally, given that we’re based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, do you have a crazy or funny story from past shows in Winnipeg?
We’ve always had a great time playing in Winnipeg! There’s a killer death metal scene up there! Another thing that’s memorable is the weather. It’s either super cold in the winter or quite hot in the summer, but I guess you all already know that [Laughs]. But yeah, that twenty feet or so of walking from the venue to the bus after the show completely soaked with sweat when it’s about 5˚F, well, that’ll cool you down quick!
Thanks for taking the time, Alex! I hope you and the rest of the band are staying safe out there! Is there anything else you would like to add before you go?
Thank you, I hope you and everyone reading is safe and well too! Thank you for the interview, and thanks to everyone for the support. Hope to see you again on tour, sooner than later!